Last Saturday my 11 year old daughter, Katie and I went for a bike ride at Crockett park.  Crockett park is not far from our home in Brentwood, TN and if you’ve never been there, you’re missing out.  It’s a beautiful 164 acre park with lots of baseball, football and soccer fields, tennis courts and a beautiful band shell.  But the reason Katie and I go are for all the paths and trails throughout the park.  That’s what we enjoy. We love the fact that we can spend the majority of our time riding through beautiful wooded areas and along side babbling brooks.  It’s absolutely wonderful.
On this particular day, we crossed a little brick path over the creek.  Katie decided she wanted to ride her bike through the creek.  She enjoyed it so much, she dared me to try it.  One dare led to another and before we knew it, we were pedaling upstream.  Of all the biking I’ve done in my 47 years, that was by far, hands down, without a doubt, the best!  We laughed, pedaled, and sloshed upstream for about 20 minutes.  I’ve never had more fun on a  bike – which got me thinking about the parallels of life and business.

Pedaling upstream was certainly more work than coasting downhill; we got soaked, our heart rates were much higher, and our legs were sore the next day – but we didn’t notice, we were having too much fun.  There was no doubt that we were living our lives fully alive.
My friend Ken Davis just finished a book by that very title, Fully Alive.  (You really need to read it.  I liked it so much that I got 15 copies to share with friends, family and co-workers!)  In it he laments the tragedy of people dying without having really lived.  When that happens, he says, “most of us stop looking for new experiences. We stop living and start coasting. We become fearful of taking risks. We start getting old instead of growing old. There is a big difference.”
While it’s true personally, there’s a business application as well.  Is your business just coasting, waiting to die or pedaling full “stream” ahead?  Personally, I find these 5 habits are indicators that I am indeed pedaling upstream – in a good way.

A Positive Attitude

I put attitude first because it is so important to the others.  I certainly mean more than a feeling, it’s really a choice.  If you are what you eat, you will become what you think.  Are you a glass half full or half empty kind of person. If the later, learn to see the potential, look beyond the challenges to what could be, then make it happen.

A Clear Vision

Where are you going? What are you or should you be about? You have to have a clear vision of what you want your life to be before you can have a fully realized vision as a leader. Let me say it another way, your personal vision should feed or inform your business vision. A few years back I had Building Champions help me get clarify here and I have a staff member going through this process with them now. It has made a HUGE difference in me, my family, my business, our staff and how we serve our clients.

Reading More

I find that if I feed my attitude and vision by reading great books and listening to Podcasts, I have better thoughts, more ideas and a better outlook on life in general.  I use to say that I was too busy to read, but I’ve since learned that you’re never too busy if you want to grow.  Carve out time to feed your mind and heart.  It’s a “must” investment in yourself and your organization.

Talking Less

This one is a hard one for me, but I’m learning to listen to what others have to say.  John Maxwell in his book, How Successful People Think, put it this way, “Listening has taught me a lot more than talking.” I can learn so much more from my staff and clients by listening. (Yes guys, I am working on it).
Another aspect of listening that is important – listening to the silence. Clarity comes in silence and stillness. Michael Hyatt recently wrote a great blog on silence, The Practice of Stillness. In it he talks about the 3 byproducts of silence; perspective, connection and internal margin and in today’s busy world, you need them all.

Being Innovative

Innovation is simply finding a better way to do or see something-a better mousetrap, if you would. When Apple unveiled the first iPhone, it wasn’t a mere incremental update to the cell phone. They WOWed their customers with a whole new brand of product, in a way that no one had ever done before. They innovated and 5 years later, we’re still excited to see what the iPhone 5 will hold. Find a way to make your business better.  Innovate!
With the right attitude, a clear vision, by reading, listening and innovating, you and your team will better serve your clients, which is why you got into business in the first place.

Don’t just get by.  Don’t settle for average or comfortable.

Make sure the wind in your hair is a result of your pedaling, not coasting. Go for it.  Give it everything you’ve got. Sure, from time to time, you will fail. But don’t give up.  Learn from your mistakes and do it again.  Life is too short to do anything else.  You owe it to yourself, your clients and your team.  Make the choice now to pedal upstream.  Yes it will be more work, you’ll get dirty and sweat more than you would have if you were coasting down the hill, but it will change you – for the better.